Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Well, I did it. Sort of. The novel isn't quite done, but I got impatient and went ahead and uploaded what I had. 52,725 words in 26 days. NaNo is an impressive motivator. I just hope and pray that I didn't write pure crap. My new goal, of course, is to finish the story by the end of the month. However many words that may turn out to be. Then I can happily revise it, create a query letter and synopsis for it, and send it out to every agent I can think of. The only question remaining, in my mind, is whether this novel is more suited for the YA or the general adult fantasy market.

Stoned Responder

It is my opinion that after having oral surgery, you should not then catch up on all the blogs you follow while stoned half out of your mind on Vicodin.

To those bloggers that I did, in fact, respond to, I officially apologize.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Great book. Go read it.

Even if you don't like SF&F.
(how can anyone NOT like SF&F?)

Even if you don't like to read.
(You poor soul.)


Sunday, November 16, 2008 - Dumb Test

I am smarter than 99.81% of the rest of the world.
Dumb Test

Apparently I am bored tonight. Actually, I think I am procrastinating actually doing any work on my NaNo story. Even though it's getting good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Free IQ Test - Free IQ Test

And I was not exactly awake or concentrating on it, either.

It was an okay test, a little tricky in places. But the really annoying was the end. It takes nearly ten minutes of clicking 'skip' to get get past all the ads and products they want to sell you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Review of Anathem

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
A book review

From the word “anthem” meaning “a piece of sacred vocal music” and from the word “Anathema” meaning “a formal ecclesiastical ban, curse, or excommunication.”

This is the title of Neal Stephenson’s latest book. Now, I usually read science fiction and fantasy. I had never before read Stephenson because he is not a pure genre author. Most of his work falls under the category of historical romance. Some of his work is alternate history/near future. And his earliest work has been described as cyberpunk. None of these are genres or subgenres that hold any interest for me.

Then Stephenson wrote Anathem. The pre-release work-up in Locus was interesting, and I thought, “I might give it a read once it’s out in paperback.” But as the release date grew closer, I found myself thinking about the concept of the novel that I’d read about. And if I am thinking of a book I haven’t even read, well, I take that as a sign. I bought a copy, in hardcover, which I am loathe to do if it’s an author I don’t know, trust, admire, love, etc.

The first thing I noticed was that the book was 900 some odd pages long. Long books don’t scare me. I read Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth because it was a long book. I read very fast, you see, and frequently run out of book long before I’m ready to leave the story. My favorite authors, who by sane standards are prolific, don’t write fast enough to suit me. So long books don’t scare me.

I settled down to start reading Anathem. I thought it would take me several days to read it because I lack the time to devote to intensive reading right now, what with NaNoWriMo, the revision of my own book, school etc. Nuh-uh. Just over a day. Why?

Because Anathem is a complex book with many themes and concepts interwoven and I was afraid that if I put the book down for any great length of time, I’d lose the thread of it. At the same time, I found the book insightful, funny, and absolutely brilliant. And more importantly, it was an awesome read. I read a lot of books. This is the best book I’ve read in well over a year.

From the beginning the concept grabbed me. The plot took two hundred pages to show up, and I didn’t care. The concept, the background, the sheer detail of the fascinating world-building held me spellbound. Then when the plot did show up, it got even better! It alternated between philosophy and action and politics and science and math and religion. Any concept you can name was probably thought about at some point during this novel.

Anathem is what science fiction used to be. It is what science fiction should be. This is not a rehashing of the typical sci fi plot involving rockets and space colonization. It isn’t thinly veiled socio-political commentary. It isn’t space opera with nothing but lip service paid to the science aspect of sci fi. No, it’s innovative. It’s like 40s sci fi writ anew, based on modern science. Not Newtonian or Einsteinian physics, but sciences like quantum mechanics.

The science is dazzling, well researched, and logically presented in such a way that the average reader probably can understand most of it. Ditto for the math. And the characters are human, believable, and likeable. They make you want to keep reading to find out what happens to them next. All the way to the end of the novel. At which point, I heaved a huge sigh and said, “I wish there was a sequel.” Of course, the odds are slim, I think Anathem was written as a stand-alone, but still, what a wonderful, wonderful book.

Here’s hoping that Stephenson considers writing another book in the same world.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Horses in Writing

As a writer of fantasy and a lover of horses, this blog post was pretty much inevitable. The following is a primer for those people planning on putting horses into their novels in any way, but particularly as a form of transportation.

1. The horse is not a machine. It needs to rest, it needs to eat, it needs to sleep. It drinks lots of water, very messily. And then the horse smears it’s wet, grain-and-dirt-and-snot coated muzzle across the shirt you’re wearing.

2. The horse has a mind of its own. It can get cranky. Or frisky. And they startle easily. The horse is a prey animal and wired that way. Its instinct says run away first, then wonder if that flapping thing is really trying to attack. So sometimes the horse goes sideways because a leaf flips over in the wind. Sometimes, the rider doesn’t go with the horse.

3. Some horses will hold their breath while being saddled so that the girth is too loose. And some horses will try to scrape their riders off on trees. And then there is propping. Propping occurs when the horse stops suddenly, usually at a gallop. The horse stops by planting its stiffened front feet to the earth. Propping them, see? The problem with that is simple: the rider rarely sees it coming and ends up flipping over the horse’s head.

4. Horses have bad habits, too. They need mental stimulation. A bored horse who has been in a stall too long picks up vices. Cribbing, for example. Cribbing is when the horse starts biting and chewing on the stall itself, and swallows air as a result. There are a whole host of stable vices that the budding author can look into.

5. The rider. The escaping princess leaps onto the back of a horse in her silk dress and gallops off into the night? She falls off after ten paces because silk is slippery. So are the bare backs of horses. Okay, she has a saddle. Ever try mounting a horse in a full length skirt? And side-saddles aren’t well balanced, so no cross country, which makes it easy for the guards to catch her. Dress sensibly: boots, long pants.

6. The characters ride all day long, hand their horses over to the stable boys, and saunter into the inn. Riding all day long is hard physical work. It’s exhausting. After a full twelve hours or more in the saddle, even given stops for nature-calls, the character shouldn’t be able to stand up straight, much less walk, much less saunter. And both people and horses can get saddle-sores.

There is plenty more to think about when using horses in a novel. The best recommendation I could give you is to find someone who owns horses and will let you experience the joys of riding AND taking care of their needs.